SSEN urges diggers to think deep


"Can I dig it?" is the question Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) wants everyone to ask themselves before they begin excavation work. Whether you’re a budding gardener itching to try out your new tools, or an experienced construction company working on a housing development, anyone putting a spade in the ground could potentially strike an underground cable, running the risk of serious injury (or worse) and putting the power off in their local community.

In the last year SSEN, the company responsible for the electricity network across central southern England and northern Scotland, including the Highlands and Islands, was called out to over 3,000 incidents where their underground cables had been struck by spades, forks, or mechanical diggers.

Thankfully not every one of these incidents involved an injury to the person at the other end of the tool, but as you can imagine, striking a cable carrying anything up to 33,000 Volts could easily result in some very serious consequences. It’s not just gardeners or DIY enthusiasts that SSEN is keen to reach with their plea, as only last month a construction firm on the outskirts of London struck one of the company’s cables, causing the power to over 300 properties to go off for a short time.

To prevent injuries and powercuts, SSEN is urging everyone planning on doing some digging to carry out a full risk assessment before they start. Solid guidance regarding safe digging techniques is available on the Health and Safety Executive website.

Richard Gough, SSEN’s Head of Safety, Health and Environment, said:

"With warmer weather hopefully just around the corner, we know a lot of our customers will be out in the garden, and we want to make sure that they enjoy their hobby and not put themselves and others at risk by striking one of our cables. We also want to make sure that companies using larger digging machinery are mindful of the need to carry out a full risk assessment and check the underground situation before they start their work.

"Digging can sometimes give us a stiff back, achy knees and blisters on the palms, but it’s often forgotten that it can also be potentially deadly if you strike an underground electric cable. We want to help ensure our customers stay safe, so we are asking them to follow the guidance provided by the Health and Safety Executive before they put a spade in the ground."

For more information please do not hesitate to call SSEN on 0800 048 3516.

About the author

Van on rural road

Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks

We're responsible for maintaining the electricity networks supplying over 3.7 million homes and businesses across central southern England and north of the Central Belt of Scotland. We own one electricity transmission network and two electricity distribution networks, comprising 106,000 substations and 130,000 km of overhead lines and underground cables across one third of the UK. Our first priority is to provide a safe and reliable supply of electricity to the communities we serve in Scotland and England.

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